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Safety First, From the Start for Your Summer Students

By Sinead Wills, former WorkSafeNB summer student

Everyone remembers it: the nerves, the excitement, the desire to impress and please your new boss. First jobs are milestones, and are often found at the end of a school year. But, amidst the excitement of a new job, the importance of workplace safety can be forgotten.

Each year about 650 New Brunswick workers, aged 15 to 24, file lost-time claims due to workplace injuries. Without proper training, young workers are at a higher risk for workplace injuries. No matter the length of their work term, proper safety training for summer students is a must. Start with a proper orientation. Students need to know their duties, their rights, the employer’s expectations, and the safety hazards found in their workplace.

According to legislation, all employees, including summer students, have three key safety rights. Make sure the right to know, the right to participate and the right to refuse unsafe work  are clear from day one. Reiterate that employees should never attempt a task that seems dangerous. If possible, give practical examples, allowing students to identify, understand and remember each right.

As employers, ensure your orientation also covers all workplace risks, hazardous materials, personal protective equipment and emergency procedures. This should include fire, medical and evacuation plans.

Orientations often cover a lot of unfamiliar material, so don’t overwhelm students. Speak
slowly, don’t rush, and leave plenty of time at the end of each segment for questions.

When possible, make the orientation interactive. Ask students to reiterate key points, answer trivia questions, or pass around safety equipment to keep them engaged.

Instead of telling students where to find safety stations, give them a walking tour to show them first aid kits, fire extinguishers, eyewash and shower stations, and personal protective equipment lockers. At each stop, explain what the item is used for, giving students time to process the information.

Teach students the importance of reporting any hazards or injuries to management. Try to establish an open line of communication, making students feel comfortable and confident when discussing safety with their superiors.

Make sure to fit and equip students with any personal protection equipment they may need, explaining the importance and use of each item.

Register students in relevant external safety courses. Start with general safety programs that apply to all workplaces. Follow this framework with any further training specific to the workplace in question. Safety training courses teach valuable workplace safety skills, giving both employers and students confidence in their safety knowledge.

Provide careful supervision while students are at work to ensure they are comfortable, confident, and safe at all times. Students may try to cut corners with the intention of being more efficient, so use this period of supervision as an opportunity to correct any potentially unsafe habits.

Throughout the work term, be mindful of each student’s previous training and experience. Assign work that falls safely within the student’s abilities and comfort, since eager students may risk trying new tasks without thinking hazards through. When teaching a new skill, provide additional training and supervision to prevent injuries.

Hiring a summer student is more than giving them a wage; it instils work ethic, responsibility, a sense of belonging, and a lifelong memory. Educating these keen employees to recognize risks, report hazards, and abide by safety standards is a skill they will carry with them for life.

All students and new workers should read Information for New Workers.
A great resource for employers, teachers and students is our youth website, During training, encourage students to explore the site since it provides an age-appropriate explanation of workplace safety.

This summer, build a student’s safety instincts. Give them the right start to the working world by giving them a safe start.

Sinead Wills is a former WorkSafeNB summer student. She now works safely in Toronto.

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